Since Kant, philosophy has been obsessed with epistemological questions pertaining to the relationship between mind and world and human access to objects. In The Democracy of Objects, Bryant proposes that we break with this tradition and once again initiate the project of ontology as first philosophy. Drawing on the object-oriented ontology of Graham Harman, as well as theSince Kant, philosophy has been obsessed with epistemological questions pertaining to the relationship between mind and world and human access to objects. In The Democracy of Objects, Bryant proposes that we break with this tradition and once again initiate the project of ontology as first philosophy. Drawing on the object-oriented ontology of Graham Harman, as well as the thought of Roy Bhaskar, Gilles Deleuze, Niklas Luhman, Aristotle, Jacques Lacan, Bruno Latour and the developmental systems theorists, Bryant develops a realist ontology that he calls “onticology”. This ontology argues that being is composed entirely of objects, properties, and relations such that subjects themselves are a variant of objects. Drawing on the work of the systems theorists and cyberneticians, Bryant argues that objects are dynamic systems that relate to the world under conditions of operational closure. In this way, he is able to integrate the most vital discoveries of the anti-realists within a realist ontology that does justice to both the material and cultural. Onticology proposes a flat ontology where objects of all sorts and at different scales equally exist without being reducible to other objects and where there are no transcendent entities such as eternal essences outside of dynamic interactions among objects.ull text available here:http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/......
|Title||:||The Democracy of Objects|
|Number of Pages||:||574 Pages|
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The Democracy of Objects Reviews
My initial penetration into the fields of Speculative Realism and Object Oriented Ontology, DoO is a clear, concise, and determined attempt to bypass the epistemological problem of access to objects (the ways in which our knowledge claims about the 'world out there' are limited by our senses/perceptions, leaving us with only what the 'world out there is for us'.), to get to real discussions about reality as it is for itself. The text seems to seek to deanthropocentrize ontology, repositioning the Subject as just another type of Object, and according all objects their proper due as actors in Latourian networks of relation. This restores the "natural" world to a thing of more than just symbolic value, and allows us to think of materials in ways that fall outside the symbolic order, which can be useful for dealing with non-social material problems such as climate change, chemical pollution, and contamination of the global food supply by GMO: objects and materials persist and cause effect, whether they are properly identified or not. I am not, and probablky couldn't, do the text justice in explanation, and it contains so many novel and interesting ideas. The main challenge of the book for me has been reconciling Bryant's clarity of thought with the spread of jargony terms that get used to explain the concepts. In the end, however frustrating for me this may be, it is excusable, as he is both a student of Lacanian psychoanalysis and continental philosophy, both of which (in my experience) have tendencies to run towards language usage the lay person will find obscure or difficult. Totally worth multiple reads.
A GR, and real-life, friend of mine stated that people who haven't taken the time to read Kant properly end up doing this object-oriented ontology stuff. I'm thinking that's pretty accurate. Also: this is what people write who a) aren't talented enough to write imaginative literature that can teach empathy and broaden our ethical horizons and b) are particularly suspect as philosophers, neither straightforward fuck-it-all pragmatist types like Rorty or something nor seriously rigorous in their half-hearted attempts to see things their way and get out of dealing with tough philosophical issues, and c) have blogs frequented by thousands of folks, either buying in wholesale or tossing around fallacy-ridden, easily dismissed critiques I'm actually finding 'thing theory,' in literary studies, to be fascinating, though. Proper literary critics, in major journals, are finding much less suspect ways of shifting our focus on how literature deals with things and with our relationship to things. This stuff really doesn't belong in philosophy. Its place is either in imaginative literature or in commentary and criticism of that literature.
Bryant presents his case for an object-oriented ontology (OOO), something that treats all objects as things that exist in their own right, without implying that everything exists in the same manner. Above all else, it's a very articulate account, wherein Bryant never hesitates to give a full explanation for a concept that may seem to require a bit of extra space. The introduction argues the need for an object-oriented approach, saying that the common structures of phenomenology aren't really about ontology, but epistemology, that the discussion of what exists has been buried in the discussion of what we can know to exist and perceive (and if that seems immediately plain to you, you've got a good OOO start.) In the first chapter, he builds on Roy Bhaskar's transcendental realism, which he uses to start his basic structure of objects. Chapter two starts with Aritotle's notion of substance to explain what constitutes an object, and how to talk about what makes it unique. Chapter 3 borrows from Deleuze, and emphasizes the difference between what we can perceive about an object and what it is, differentiating between the virtual and the actual. Chapter four takes up Luhmann's system theory to start to discuss how objects relate to each other. Chapter five furthers the discussion, to describe how objects fit within concepts of constraint, and time. And the last chapter demonstrates the use of his theory, expanding on the withdrawal of objects with Lacanian sexuation. As you may have guessed from this description, it's an intensely interdisciplinary book, but that's the point; Bryant wants an ontology that can applied in just such a general manner,something that gets beyond the anthropocentric philosophies we have now to something that can look more at the relations of things. I don't entirely buy his theory--after all's said and done, I'm reminded of the saying "everything looks like a nail if you're a hammer." Only in Bryant's case, everything looks like an object. It's just a little too totalizing a philosophy for my tastes. But I fully admire the way Bryant went about arguing his points, and disseminating some extremely complicated philosophical concepts in the process.
I'm a newcomer to 'Speculative Realism' and to Object Oriented Ontology as well, and I found this book to be one of the clearest pieces so far in the canon, and to be one of the most engaging.Bryant find his way out of what is being termed the 'Correlationist Circle' - that is, thought that can't separate questions/investigations about the world and being into two different categories; they always correlate - by posing what he terms to be a "Transcendental Realist" question. Traditionally, Kant's transcendental question could be posed as "What are the limits to our knowledge about the world?" It's a transcendental question because it investigates the conditions of our knowledge, and its possibility, before asking about how we know a thing. Similarly, the 'Transcendental Realist' question is "How must the world be structured for science to be possible?" This question leads down a realist path, showing how (ontologically, not epistemologically) objects must confront each other, even in the absence of conscious being's presence to witness the confrontation - a thesis that is in the background of many of the book's claims.From there we get wonderful and fascinating investigations into how objects are never the sum of the networks they're embedded into, and how in this infinite withdrawal, objects still interact, but always in an act of 'translation', so that the acts are never fully understood on a one-to-one basis. We get meditations on Deleuze and Lacan, on Whitehead and Harman, and into a whole serious of intellectual jumping-off-points. This makes the book rather comprehensive, at least for only being three hundred or so pages - at least more comprehensive than most Object Oriented books have been thus far.This book is clear and engaging; it shows how Speculative Realism can be something new and fascinating for philosophy. Though it may have its problems (what piece of philosophy doesn't?), it at least makes good headway into reinvigorating a sense of wonder in the philosophical project - an end that makes the book worth a read in-itself.
This may be too heavily philosophical for me, but I'm giving it a try. I'm very interested in this Object Oriented Ontology stuff....
Haven't read that poorly written prose for a while. The introduction and the first chapter were enough.